2 Kings Chapter 17  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: 2 Kings 17
2Ki 17:1

“In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah began to reign.” 2 Kings 17 is about the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, by Assyria. There is no description of battle or heroism, just a very short description of Israel’s conquest, and then the exile of Israel. The reason the Bible gives for the disaster is clear: idolatry—Israel abandoned the true worship of Yahweh to follow pagan gods and pagan practices.

The fall of Samaria is a watershed event in the history of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had lasted over 200 years (c. 940-722 BC). Twenty kings from 10 dynasties sat on the throne of Israel, including Hoshea, all of whom did evil in the eyes of Yahweh. From a purely political point of view, Israel (and other nations in the Levant) was too weak to oppose Assyrian expansionist policies and military might. But from a theological point of view, which is God’s point of view, the prophets and the author of 2 Kings interpreted Israel’s downfall as a result of continued sin against Yahweh. Yahweh enabled His faithful servants to defeat powerful enemies, as we learn with the Exodus from Egypt and many other such records. But now Israel had abandoned God and in doing so abandoned their Deliverer. The Book of Judges shows the Israelites behaving like the Canaanites but without a king and becoming enslaved. But now they had become like Canaanites with a king, but became exiled for their rejection of Yahweh.

Israel’s last king was Hoshea (c.731-722 BC). Biblical and Assyrian records show that he came to the throne as an appointee of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III. When Assyria’s next king, Shalmaneser V, became preoccupied with rebellions in Babylon, Hoshea thought it was an opportune time to throw off the Assyrian yoke. He withheld tribute and appealed to So, Pharaoh of Egypt, for help (2 Kings 17:3-4).

Hoshea’s plan did not work. Shalmaneser V returned to restore order. Hoshea was captured and the city of Samaria besieged. The city withstood a long siege of three years, but fell in 722 BC. There is uncertainty about which Assyrian king was responsible for the capture of Samaria since Shalmaneser V died and was replaced by Sargon II in the same year that Samaria fell. We have no records from Shalmaneser, but Sargon took credit for the conquest even though Samaria may have already fallen by the time he came to the throne. In the Assyrian records, Sargon wrote: “I besieged and conquered Samaria, led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants of it…I installed over them an officer of mine and imposed upon them the tribute of the former king” (James Prichard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition, Princeton University Press, 1969, pp. 284-285).


Additional resource:

Video expand/contract2 Kings 17 - The Fall of Israel (47:28) (Pub: 2022-02-08)

2 Kings 17 covers what God wanted written about the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Romans 15:4 says that the Old Testament was written to instruct us, and this chapter has lots of lessons for us to learn. It is a powerful warning and teaching that ignoring and rejecting the commandments of God leads to disaster, so it’s wise to learn the commandments of God and obey them.

Verses: 2 Kings 17:1-23

Teacher: John Schoenheit

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2Ki 17:2(top)
2Ki 17:3

“Shalmaneser king of Assyria.” King Hoshea of Israel had become a vassal to Assyria when Tiglath-pileser (Tiglath-pileser III) ruled Assyria (see commentary on 2 Kings 15:30).

2Ki 17:4

“So king of Egypt.” The identity of the pharaoh referred to as “So” is debated by scholars.

2Ki 17:5(top)
2Ki 17:6

“the king of Assyria captured Samaria.” The “king of Assyria” who started the campaign against Israel and Samaria was Shalmanezzar V, but he died before the campaign was finished, and Sargon II took over as king of Assyria and completed the conquest of Israel and destruction of Samaria.

“and carried Israel away to Assyria.” In accordance with Assyrian policy, the population of Samaria was deported to various places throughout the Assyrian Empire. Also, the Assyrians transferred other conquered peoples into Samaria. The main purpose of the population transfers was to wipe out independence movements among the conquered peoples, but often another purpose was to create buffer zones between the heartland of the conquering nation and any enemy attacks from outside the empire.

The Assyrian deportation is the origin of the “ten lost tribes of Israel.” The author of Second Kings mentions three destinations of the deported Israelites: “Halah, and Habor, on the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6, 18:11). The book of 2 Chronicles notes similar destinations for earlier deportations from Transjordan (1 Chron. 5:26). Habor is probably the modern Habur River of the upper Euphrates, which flows 60 miles east of ancient Haran. Gozan is either a site, a river, or a region along this river. Halah is unknown, though some locate it in northern (Kurdish) Iraq. The cities of the Medes are quite a distance further east. The scattering of the tribes of Israel, which even to this day have not returned to the land of Israel, sets the stage for the fulfillment of the many prophecies that in the future, when Christ rules the earth, the tribes of Israel will be regathered (cp. Isa. 11:11-12; 27:13; 56:8; 66:20; Jer. 12:15; 15:15-17; 23:3-8; 29:14; 31:8; 32:37-38, 42-44; 33:10-13; Ezek. 11:17, 28:25; 34:11-13; 36:24; 37:21; 39:28; Hos. 1:11; Amos 9:14-15; Micah 2:12; Zeph. 3:18-20; Zech. 8:7-8; 10:6).

The capture and deportation of Israel, and the Assyrians repopulating it with pagans, is completely missing from the record in Chronicles.

[For more on the future time when Israel will be regathered and Jesus Christ will rule the earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

“the Habor.” A tributary of the Euphrates River.

“the river of Gozan.” This could be another name for the Habor. This is close to Haran, where Abraham came from.

2Ki 17:7(top)
2Ki 17:8

“and in the statutes of the kings of Israel, which they had made.” Here God says that although the people had followed the statutes that their kings had made, because those statutes were against God’s laws, the people suffered the consequences of disobeying God. 2 Kings 17:8 shows that sometimes kings and rulers make laws that believers should not follow (see commentary on Rom. 13:1).

2Ki 17:9

“​attributed words that were not so to Yahweh their God.” Many English versions have a reading similar to the King James Version (1611 AD): “And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God.” But the Hebrew word that is translated as “secretly” is chapha (#02644 חָפָא), and this is the only place it occurs in the Old Testament. Years ago, the translators were not sure of its meaning, and so, for example, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon, first published in 1906, has “do secretly” for its definition of chapha, and many modern Bibles still hold to that definition, even though it does not fit the context. Israel did not sin secretly, but openly, as the Bible says many times.

Modern Hebrew lexicons do not have “secretly” as a definition of chapha. The lexicon by Holladay (1972) has “attribute,” and HALOT (1994-2000), has “to ascribe, impute,” and that is its meaning in 2 Kings 17:9. Modern versions, especially independent modern versions, are picking up on the more newly understood meaning of chapha. For example, The JPS reads, “the children of Israel did impute things that were not right unto the LORD their God.” The NET Bible reads, “The Israelites said things about the LORD their God that were not right.” The NJB reads, “The Israelites spoke slightingly of Yahweh their God.” The Schocken Bible by Everett Fox has, “the children of Israel had imputed things that were not so to Yahweh their God.” The First Testament by John Goldingay has, “the Yisraelites [Israelites] had imputed things that were not so to Yahweh their God.” The Koren Tanakh, done by Koren Publishers in Jerusalem, reads, “The Israelites ascribed falsehoods to the LORD their God.” Also, the Hebrew word translated “words” in 2 Kings 17:9 is dabar (#01697 דָּבָר), which is the common word for “word,” but also, like the Greek word logos, has a wide range of meanings, including “word,” “thing,” and “matter.” Thus the verse might well be translated as, “attributed words,” or “attributed things,” or even “attributed matters” that were not so to God.

This certainly happens today. Many people claim that God says things or does things that He does not do, and that is a serious fault in God’s eyes. [For more on attributing to God things that are not so, see commentary on Exodus 20:3].

pagan shrines.” The Hebrew word “shrines” is bamot, which referred to a place that was leveled and built up and on which were placed various idols and objects of worship. The context indicates these shrines were pagan in nature (cp. NLT, “pagan shrines”). Many of the towns had such shrines (see commentary on Num. 33:52).

“from watchtower to fortified city.” This phrase is likely somewhat hyperbolic, describing the huge number of places of pagan worship. They were “in all their cities,” from any place that had a watchtower to the fortified cities in the land. This interpretation seems to be supported by the next verse, that there were also places of worship on every high hill and under every green tree. Israel was wholly given over to pagan worship. Although some scholars believe the verse is a way of describing the whole city, from the watchtower on the edge of the city to the most fortified part of the city, that interpretation does not fit the context well, nor does it fit well with the rest of the history of Israel as it is given in Kings, Chronicles, and the prophetic books.

2Ki 17:10

“standing stones.” Most standing-stones were set up as part of the worship of pagan gods, and that is the context here. God has no tolerance for idols. They are harmful in many different ways, and God commanded that they be destroyed. [For more on standing-stones, see commentary on Gen. 28:18. For more on idols being harmful, see commentary on Deuteronomy 7:5].

2Ki 17:11(top)
2Ki 17:12

disgusting idols.” The word translated “idols” is gilluwl (#01544 גִּלּוּל or (sometimes shortenedגִּלֻּל gillul)). It is not the normal word for “idols,” but has a distinct negative aspect to it, and in fact may be related to the word “dung.” Walter Maier writes that “the exact sense of this noun, for which the conventional translation is ‘idols,’ is uncertain. Some scholars think it comes from the verb…‘to roll,’ explaining that these idols have no life of their own but have to be rolled about from place to place. Other scholars suggest that it comes from a word meaning ‘dung’…Omanson and Ellington conclude that, ‘in any case, this Hebrew word has a strong negative aspect’ which is not fully captured by the English word ‘idols’” (Walter Maier III, Concordia Commentary: 1 Kings 12-22, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2019).

2Ki 17:13(top)
2Ki 17:14

“stiffened their neck.” An idiom for being stubborn and obstinate. The idea is that a person is going in a certain direction and when called to change, they stiffen their neck and refuse to look or move in a different direction. Animals on a leash often stiffen their neck when they don’t want to be led in a direction different than the one they want to go.

2Ki 17:15

“worthless idols.” The Hebrew is just the singular noun “empty” (or “worthless,” related to a breath or vapor), and perhaps could more literally be translated “worthlessnesses.” A number of English versions use “vain,” and although “vain” can mean useless or worthless, its more common meaning, “to have an excessively high opinion of one's appearance, abilities, or worth,” seems to make it a poor choice, because that is not what is being said in the verse. In this context it refers to idols, which from God’s perspective are indeed worthless. They certainly cannot keep a person from everlasting death. In that sense, the person who follows worthless idols becomes worthless themselves.

2Ki 17:16

“and made cast metal images for themselves—two calves.” These calves were made by Jeroboam I, the very first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and he set one up in Bethel and the other up in Dan (1 Kings 12:28-30). The Hebrew vocabulary tells us that the cast images were not solid metal, but were hollow inside.

“worshiped.” Or, “bowed down to.” [See commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].

“and worshiped all the army of heaven.” In this context, the “army of heaven” refers to the stars and planets (also thought of as “stars”) which appeared organized and thus were referred to as an “army.” Worship of the stars was forbidden by God (cp. Deut. 4:19; 17:3).

2Ki 17:17

“used divination and interpreted omens.” See Deuteronomy 18:10.

“and sold themselves.” The idiom means to be totally dedicated, and may involve dedication to the point of self-enslavement (HALOT).

2Ki 17:18

“removed them from his presence.” More literally, “removed them from before his face.” The idea of God removing Israel from before His face, that is, removing them from His presence, is emphasized here in 2 Kings 17, occurring in 2 Kings 17:18, 20, and 17:23, each written slightly differently.

2Ki 17:19

“that Israel did.” The Hebrew can also be translated, “that Israel made.” No doubt some of the sins of Israel were picked up from the neighboring pagans, and some were invented within Israel itself.

2Ki 17:20

“cast them out of his presence.” More literally, “cast them from before his face.”

2Ki 17:21

“For he had torn Israel from the house of David.” This happened soon after the death of Solomon (cp. 1 Kings 11:11-13; 31).

2Ki 17:22

“it.” The Hebrew text is singular, “it,” which is a collective singular. The sins together are an “it,” which adds weight to the idea that if you break one law and sin you break all the laws. All the sins are a “sin,” an “it.”

2Ki 17:23

“Yahweh removed Israel from his presence.” More literally, “removed them from before his face.”

2Ki 17:24

“Avva and from Hamath.” These are cities in northern Syria.

“and placed them in the cities of Samaria.” The policy of most of the conquering kings at that time was to not destroy the cities they conquered unless absolutely necessary, but rather it was to use the cities for their own purposes, and we see that here too.

2Ki 17:25

“so Yahweh sent lions among them.” This is the third time in the books of Kings that lions are an instrument of judgment (cp. 1 Kings 13:24; 20:36, and here in 2 Kings 17:25).

2Ki 17:26

“do not know the law of the god of the land.” It was commonly believed that different gods lived in different places, so if a person went to a different area they would have to learn how to please the god in that area. [For more on people believing that different gods lived in different places on earth, see commentary on 1 Kings 20:23].

2Ki 17:27

“and let him go.” Although the Masoretic Hebrew text has “them,” the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac text read “him,” and in most of the rest of the verse and in 2 Kings 17:28 the priest is a singular person, but there are plural verbs (cp. “let go” and “live” there).

2Ki 17:28

“whom they had carried away from Samaria.” The priest who came from Samaria would have had a very warped idea of what it was to worship Yahweh, and there was a golden calf god at Bethel. Given that this priest, if he worshiped Yahweh at all, worshiped Him in a polytheistic setting along with golden calf gods and other gods, there is no way that he could have taught these newcomers the true worship of Yahweh. They would have been trained in a manner accepting of polytheism, and thus remained polytheistic themselves.

2Ki 17:29

“temples of the shrines.” The Hebrew is more literally, “the houses of the shrines,” and it refers to the temples that were built at the local shrines (see commentary on Num. 33:52). The temples in Samaria might have been empty if the gods of Samaria were covered in silver and gold and the Assyrians had carried them off when they carried away the people.

“each nation in their cities.” The nations brought into Samaria by the Assyrians around 720 BC remained in their own nation-groups. At first they did not intermingle among themselves, however, over time they intermingled and were very intermingled by the time of Christ. The process of intermingling was no doubt helped by the large number of conquests of that area. After the Assyrians placed people of different nationalities in the area of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, that area was again conquered by the Babylonians, then the Persians, then the Greeks, and then the Romans. In each of those conquests there would have been shuffling and resettling, and with each of those conquests the leadership of the area changed. For example, Ezra 5:3 mentions that one of the governors of the area during the Persian period was Tattenai. During the time of Nehemiah, Sanballat seems to be the governor of the area (Neh. 2:10), and secular literature attests to that fact.

2Ki 17:30

“The people from Babylon.” The city of Babylon was destroyed by Sennacherib (c. 689 BC) and the people were dispersed. Here we see that some of them were exiled to Samaria.

“Sukkoth-benoth.” This god is unknown except for here in the Bible.

“Nergal.” Nergal was a Babylonian god of the plague and god of the underworld.

“Ashima.” Ashima is unknown outside of the Bible.

2Ki 17:31

“the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak.” Avva is a city in Elam, near the Persian Gulf, and “Nibhaz” and “Tartak” are the gods known as Ibnahaza and Dirtaq (see Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, The Anchor Yale Bible: II Kings, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1988, p. 212).

“Adrammelech and Anammelech.” These gods do not appear outside the Bible and nothing is known about them.

2Ki 17:32

“shrines.” The Hebrew word “shrines” is bamot, which referred to a place that was leveled and built up and on which were placed various idols and objects of worship. Many of the towns had such shrines (see commentary on Num. 33:52).

“the temples at the shrines.” The Hebrew is more literally, “the houses of the shrines,” and it refers to the temples that were built at the local shrines (see commentary on Num. 33:52).

2Ki 17:33(top)
2Ki 17:34(top)
2Ki 17:35

“But Yahweh had cut a covenant.” This is the covenant that Yahweh made with Israel at Mount Sinai, commonly known as “the Old Covenant.”

“bow down.” The word translated “bowed down,” shachah (#07812 שָׁחָה), is the same Hebrew word as “worship.” [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].

2Ki 17:36(top)
2Ki 17:37

“Do not worship other gods.” The Hebrew text is “Do not fear other gods,” but in this case, “fear” is being used in the sense of “respect,” “awe” and “worship.” This is one of the places where a strictly literal translation of the original text could be misleading in English. The text is not saying, “Do not be afraid of pagan gods,” it is saying “Do not worship pagan gods.”

2Ki 17:38(top)
2Ki 17:39(top)
2Ki 17:40(top)
2Ki 17:41

“so they do to this day.” This tells us that 2 Kings was written before the Babylonian captivity. Sometime during the Babylonian captivity, and likely continuing after it, the people of Samaria gave up the worship of pagan gods and adopted a worship that was much more like we see in the Four Gospels, and they also became much more thoroughly mixed and homogeneous as a society. They believed a perverted version of the Law of Moses, but they had rid themselves of the overt worship of the various pagan gods. Also, they likely retained a historic memory of their ancient homes, much like we do today. Today many people in the United States (and other countries) think and act quite homogeneously, but if asked about their ancestry they can tell you if they are Irish, or German, or French, etc., and we can expect that would have happened in the ancient world as well.


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